Monday, 9 September 2013

Keralan Coconut Fish Curry

The British chef Gizzi Erskine is some one I'd heard of, but had never paid any attention to - frankly, I wanted to be annoyed by her, one of these new young breed, with her funky / odd name... I've enough to keep up with already, with your Jamie's and Nigella's and the like! She's taken over as the food writer in the Sunday Times magazine, so I've taken to at least reading her stuff. The first couple of weeks cheered me up no end, I was able to completely pooh-pooh her recipes, they seemed complicated and full of exotic ingredients that might be available in the posh supermarkets in the trendy hip areas of London she undoubtedly hangs out in, but have yet to make it to the shelves of Tesco on the Crumlin Road, much less Lidl or Aldi, where I do all my shopping these days.

But then, dammit, her recipes started to draw me in a little, much to my disgust. Last week, she had some recipes for "Midweek Suppers" that seemed so exactly to fit the ethos of this blog - quick and easy tasty meals - that I read with some interest. There was a not very appetizing looking picture of some meatballs, that seemed a bit of a faff, but on the next page were two much more interesting sounding affairs; a coconut fish curry and a Thai chicken stir fry that both seemed at the very least to be quick and easy.

It's a bargain - HONEST!
I did need to make a visit to the Asian shop anyhow, every now and again I need to replenish. And I do love having a nosy around all the unfamiliar ingredients and smells. And it's SO cheap. Case in point - I needed garam masala for the recipe. Now, I know my local Tesco would actually be able to provide that, but I was nowhere near Tesco so I thought I'd just grab it there. So I did. It was €2.95. Not madly cheap, you think... I've just checked online at Tesco and they have a couple of offerings; a Scharwtz one for €2.29 and a Tesco brand one for a mere 99 cent. But the quantity is the difference - 38g Tesco jar, 30g Schwartz jar... Or a 400g bag from the Asian Market. Yes, well over TEN TIMES more. That works out at 7 cent per 10g, whereas even the cheapest next option from Tesco is 26 cent for 10g. Aren't you glad I worked all that out for you?! I wouldn't normally work out to such a degree the levels of saving, but this was so obviously a massive difference that I decided to see the detail. Now, in fairness, I'm not sure I really need 400g of garam masala, so if anyone needs a bit, just give me a call! I would usually buy in smaller quantities but it would've certainly cost more in diesel to hightail it back to Tesco for the sake of a smaller pot. Although as the recipe only needs a quarter teaspoon, it's gonna be a while before I need more (on that note, you should actually replace spices reasonably frequently - let's say annually, as they do loose their flavour).
Anyhow, I had a great nosy round the Asian Market - you get all sorts of things there (Worcestershire sauce for €3 - a big bottle! Another saving over Mr Tesco - and, as they say themselves, "every little helps"). Coconut milk on offer - two for €2, again cheaper than.... So delighted was I with all my bargains that I bought all sorts of things I don't really need.

So, for the recipe - I'm including here also the introductory paragraph from the author, as it gives a good outline of the dish.

Coconut Fish CurrySunday Times Magazine, Sept 1st 2013, recipe by Gizzi Erskine

"Keralan food is 'My Thing': lightly spiced fish curries with a rich and soupy coconut base. If you want healthy fast food, this is just the ticket. Unlike most curries, this doesn't start with garlic and ginger, but that's normal in southern India. This most basic of curries packs a huge and unexpected flavour punch."

  • 1 tbsp vevgetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 200g fresh tomatoes, blitzed (I used a can of chopped tomatoes)
  • 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 3 green chillies
  • 4 kafir lime leaves (I got a large bag of dried from the Asian Market)
  • ¼ tsp garam masala
  • 600g white fish, such as cod or pollock (I used hake, often on offer at your local fishmonger or fish counter - I usually go to Fitzsimmons in Kimmage), cut into chunks
  • Handful of fresh coriander
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Basmati rice, to serve
    Serves 4
    Prep time: 10 mins
    Cooking time: 20 mins
    1. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the onion over a lowish heat for about 10 minutes until fully softened
    2. Add the cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder and fry for about another 1 minute
    3. Pour in the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the coconut milk, fresh chillies, lime leaves and seasoning
    4. Stir well and bring to the boil, then poach the fish in the sauce for about 3 to 5 minutes, until it's just cooked through - do not stir as this will break the fish up. You can gently turn the fish half way through using two spoons to ensure it is cooked evenly
    5. Serve the curry with basmati rice topped with fresh coriander and a wedge or two of lime

    This is fast food at it's absolute best - to say the flavour packs a punch is to underestimate things greatly. It was a fantastic dinner. 

    I've yet to try out the chicken stir-fry, but all I can say is; after the fish curry; I have HIGH hopes.

    Go on  try something new. It's fabulous.

    Sarah xx

    Monday, 2 September 2013

    Cauliflower Renaissance

    Cauliflower ... Not the most popular of vegetables (I think we all have memories of cauliflower that was boiled for an hour and was totally waterlogged - vile) but definitely enjoying something of a renaissance these days. I saw a programme a year or two ago now, championing foods that have fallen out of favour (I was pinned to the chair, with a sick child asleep on my lap and the TV remote control just out of reach) and watched the Hairy Bikers singing the praises of cauliflower. There was a really interesting looking cauliflower cheese that they did; a ramped up, "posh" cauli-cheese that would be substantial enough for an evening meal. It has since become a regular on the dinner rota here, it's a great midweek dinner and also really inexpensive, definitely a bonus - I even wrote a post on it here!

    Anyhow, I turned on the evening news on TV one night recently, and caught the last ten minutes of a cookery show on RTE1, and there it was again - the cauliflower. Kevin Dundon was extolling the virtues of the cauliflower, specifically a recipe for green bean and cauliflower biryani. His recipe was really quick and easy and he was really, really enthusiastic about about how fragrant his dish was, so I thought we'd give it a go. I have to say, I was pretty sceptical because it did not look pretty. But my word, Kevin was right - it was SO delicious. Really different and really easy, incredibly fragrant and just fantastic. I even mentioned it on the DinnerLadies Facebook page, I was so excited.

    Here's the link to the actual recipe on the RTE webpage, but I've also posted it below too.

    Kevin Dundon's Cauliflower and Green Bean Biryani

    Cook the onion & spices slowly
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 4 - 6 cardamom pods
    • ½ tsp chilli powder
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • 150g green beans, cut into 2cm long pieces
    • ½ head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 220g basmati rice
    • 600ml vegetable (or chicken) stock, warmed
      To serve
    • 150g natural yoghurt
    • 50g flaked almonds, toasted
    • Bunch of coriander, chopped
    1. Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the cumin, chilli powder, cinnamon and cardamom pods and cook for a minute or two. Add the onion and garlic and cook slowly (this is critical, you don't want the garlic to burn and you want the onion to soften slowly) and cook until softened - about a further 3 or 4 minutes.
    2. Add the rice and stir to coat in the flavoured oil. Pour in the stock and then add the cauliflower and green beans. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed.
    3. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes, then pour into a serving dish.
    4. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and chopped coriander, and drizzle with a spoonful of the natural yoghurt.
    We've had this twice now, once just alone for a midweek supper (it was fabulous) and again last Saturday night when we served it with a pork chop, to make a slightly more substantial meal. Both were equally gorgeous. It truly is a very fragrant and tasty dish, I really do urge you to give it a go.

    PS - we had no dessert as a couple of the apples I'd been planning to turn into a crumble were gone off and I then didn't have enough. So I rustled up some buns quickly, and the DinnerHusband found a punnet of frozen raspberries in the freezer. He chucked half of them into a small saucepan and heated them through with a sprinkle of icing sugar, and he chopped in some large chunks of white chocolate. We served the buns with the raspberry and white chocolate sauce